Property transactions were among reasons cited in the recent disqualification of two High Court judges raised eyebrows in real estate.
Lady Justice Abida Aroni and Justice Muga Apondi were declared unfit for office by the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board over transactions undertaken more than ten years ago.
According to the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board chairman Sharad Rao, the board heard how Justice Apondi was allocated a prime plot in Nyeri belonging to the Judiciary.
At the time in 1996, Justice Apondi was a senior principal magistrate and paid Sh32,400 for the property that he immediately sold to a Nyeri businessman for Sh450,000.
Justice Apondi defended his allocation of the land that was cited in the Ndungâ€™u land report.
However, the board said the judge appeared unable to distinguish between what is legally permissible and what was judicially wise.
For Lady Justice Abida, two complaints filed against her by former clients while in legal practice cut short her stint at the Judiciary.
Â In one complaint, the board heard that she received Sh372,121 on behalf a family estate in 1998. One administrator of the estate allegedly asked her to invest the money in Treasury Bills but she failed to do so, or refund the money.
And by June 30 last year, the complainant was demanding a whooping Sh38.7 million from the judge.
According to the vetting board, Abida admitted receiving the money but said that her law firm had a policy of not investing funds in interest-earning accounts.
but the board said the explanation was not convincing since the judge made other deposits in interest-earning accounts.
On her part, Justice Abida said that she had not refunded the money pending the winding up of her law firm, but the board questioned her â€œcandour and integrityâ€.
It accused her of filing a case ten years after receiving the money and prolonging the hearing for another six years.
On the second complaint, the judge was accused of keeping Sh585,112 after acting on a clientâ€™s behalf in a conveyance (property transaction) matter.Â However, Justice Abida defended herself saying that the account of her law firm was frozen on the day she drew the cheque.
But the board discovered that she paid Sh3 million to the complainant, 19 years after the dispute and three days before her interview.
â€œHowever, the board has taken note of the two complaints, and having observed the demeanour of the judge at the interview, it would seem that the judge holds the view that she was not in the wrong in any of the two instances, and that the payments are being made out of compassion.
The lack of due introspection and appreciation of her two wrongs to the parties involved is disturbing,â€ the board said. Even as the disqualification of the two judges following property transactions turned sour continues to elicit debate in legal circles, LSK has put rogue lawyers on notice.
Mboya says the society was in the process of compiling a list of shame naming advocates out, in cahoots with brokers, to defraud investors in real estate.
He says some lawyers undertaking property transactions have not renewed practicing certificates for the current year. making their professional dealings illegal.-Standard